Former jail nurse accused of fondling inmates acquitted

A jury found a former Pima County Jail nurse not guilty Friday on all 10 felony sex abuse and unlawful sexual contact charges in what his defense attorney characterized as a case of "he said, she said." 

In closing arguments, Thomas S. Hartzell told jurors the accusations came from felons - among them a prostitute, a bad-check writer and a woman who lied to police about her identity - who conspired to accuse Christopher Erin Johnston, 29, of sex crimes. 

The motive, he said, was revenge because an inmate felt "violated" after Johnston performed an EKG exam. 

The exam requires attaching adhesive pads to the bare chest so that electrode leads can be attached in the study of heart rhythm. 

Ex-jail inmate Nancy Rostenhausler testified she asked for a medical visit in the jail because she was having chest pains. 

Johnston administered an EKG. He told detectives he may have touched her breasts while attaching the pads but the touching was inadvertent. 

Rostenhausler testified that she complained to her sister, who was also incarcerated at the jail. She said she was upset that Johnston saw her bare breasts and touched them, she testified. 

A juror asked if that was her first EKG and she said it was. 

Hartzell said the sister spoke to other inmates and had them "make accusations of unlawful sexual contact against Johnston, a registered nurse. 

The alleged incidents took place in July and August 2007. 

Johnston is no longer employed at the jail and is no longer registered with the Arizona State Board of Nursing. 

One alleged victim, Robyn Sanchez, jailed on a prostitution charge, said Johnston asked her if she "gave good (a sex act)." 

She also testified he suggested they meet in a bathroom at Wal-Mart after she got out. 

Hartzell called the accusers "very criminal women." He told the jury: "It's not against the law to say, 'Do you give good (sex act),' or 'Meet me at Wal-Mart.' " 

Johnston, who did not testify, told detectives his "sarcastic sense of humor" was misinterpreted and that he said "those things just to entertain myself." 

Prosecutor Shawn Jensvold said the illegal acts did occur and that the inmates "deserve to be treated like women, not like cattle, not like property, with respect."

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